Deuteronomy 16 The Message (MSG)
16 1-4 Observe the month of Abib by celebrating the Passover to God, your God. It was in the month of Abib that God, your God, delivered you by night from Egypt. Offer the Passover-Sacrifice to God, your God, at the place God chooses to be worshiped by establishing his name there. Don’t eat yeast bread with it; for seven days eat it with unraised bread, hard-times bread, because you left Egypt in a hurry—that bread will keep the memory fresh of how you left Egypt for as long as you live. There is to be no sign of yeast anywhere for seven days. And don’t let any of the meat that you sacrifice in the evening be left over until morning.
5-7 Don’t sacrifice the Passover in any of the towns that God, your God, gives you other than the one God, your God, designates for worship; there and there only you will offer the Passover-Sacrifice at evening as the sun goes down, marking the time that you left Egypt. Boil and eat it at the place designated by God, your God. Then, at daybreak, turn around and go home.
8 Eat unraised bread for six days. Set aside the seventh day as a holiday; don’t do any work.
9-11 Starting from the day you put the sickle to the ripe grain, count out seven weeks. Celebrate the Feast-of-Weeks to God, your God, by bringing your Freewill-Offering—give as generously as God, your God, has blessed you. Rejoice in the Presence of God, your God: you, your son, your daughter, your servant, your maid, the Levite who lives in your neighborhood, the foreigner, the orphan and widow among you; rejoice at the place God, your God, will set aside to be worshiped.
12 Don’t forget that you were once a slave in Egypt. So be diligent in observing these regulations.
13-15 Observe the Feast-of-Booths for seven days when you gather the harvest from your threshing-floor and your wine-vat. Rejoice at your festival: you, your son, your daughter, your servant, your maid, the Levite, the foreigner, and the orphans and widows who live in your neighborhood. Celebrate the Feast to God, your God, for seven days at the place God designates. God, your God, has been blessing you in your harvest and in all your work, so make a day of it—really celebrate!
16-17 All your men must appear before God, your God, three times each year at the place he designates: at the Feast-of-Unraised-Bread (Passover), at the Feast-of-Weeks, and at the Feast-of-Booths. No one is to show up in the Presence of God empty-handed; each man must bring as much as he can manage, giving generously in response to the blessings of God, your God.
18-19 Appoint judges and officers, organized by tribes, in all the towns that God, your God, is giving you. They are to judge the people fairly and honestly. Don’t twist the law. Don’t play favorites. Don’t take a bribe—a bribe blinds even a wise person; it undermines the intentions of the best of people.
20 The right! The right! Pursue only what’s right! It’s the only way you can really live and possess the land that God, your God, is giving you.
21-22 Don’t plant fertility Asherah trees alongside the Altar of God, your God, that you build. Don’t set up phallic sex pillars—God, your God, hates them.
Deuteronomy 17 The Message (MSG)
17 And don’t sacrifice to God, your God, an ox or sheep that is defective or has anything at all wrong with it. That’s an abomination, an insult to God, your God.
2-5 If you find anyone within the towns that God, your God, is giving you doing what is wrong in God’s eyes, breaking his covenant by going off to worship other gods, bowing down to them—the sun, say, or the moon, or any rebel sky-gods—look at the evidence and investigate carefully. If you find that it is true, that, in fact, an abomination has been committed in Israel, then you are to take the man or woman who did this evil thing outside your city gates and stone the man or the woman. Hurl stones at the person until dead.
6-7 But only on the testimony of two or three witnesses may a person be put to death. No one may be put to death on the testimony of one witness. The witnesses must throw the first stones in the execution, then the rest of the community joins in. You have to purge the evil from your community.
8-9 When matters of justice come up that are too much for you—hard cases regarding homicides, legal disputes, fights—take them up to the central place of worship that God, your God, has designated. Bring them to the Levitical priests and the judge who is in office at the time. Consult them and they will hand down the decision for you.
10-13 Then carry out their verdict at the place designated by God, your God. Do what they tell you, in exactly the way they tell you. Follow their instructions precisely: Don’t leave out anything; don’t add anything. Anyone who presumes to override or twist the decision handed down by the priest or judge who was acting in the Presence of God, your God, is as good as dead—root him out, rid Israel of the evil. Everyone will take notice and be impressed. That will put an end to presumptuous behavior.
14-17 When you enter the land that God, your God, is giving you and take it over and settle down, and then say, “I’m going to get me a king, a king like all the nations around me,” make sure you get yourself a king whom God, your God, chooses. Choose your king from among your kinsmen; don’t take a foreigner—only a kinsman. And make sure he doesn’t build up a war machine, amassing military horses and chariots. He must not send people to Egypt to get more horses, because God told you, “You’ll never go back there again!” And make sure he doesn’t build up a harem, collecting wives who will divert him from the straight and narrow. And make sure he doesn’t pile up a lot of silver and gold.
18-20 This is what must be done: When he sits down on the throne of his kingdom, the first thing he must do is make himself a copy of this Revelation on a scroll, copied under the supervision of the Levitical priests. That scroll is to remain at his side at all times; he is to study it every day so that he may learn what it means to fear his God, living in reverent obedience before these rules and regulations by following them. He must not become proud and arrogant, changing the commands at whim to suit himself or making up his own versions. If he reads and learns, he will have a long reign as king in Israel, he and his sons.
Deuteronomy 18 The Message (MSG)
18 1-2 The Levitical priests—that’s the entire tribe of Levi—don’t get any land-inheritance with the rest of Israel. They get the Fire-Gift-Offerings of God—they will live on that inheritance. But they don’t get land-inheritance like the rest of their kinsmen. God is their inheritance.
3-5 This is what the priests get from the people from any offering of an ox or a sheep: the shoulder, the two cheeks, and the stomach. You must also give them the firstfruits of your grain, wine, and oil and the first fleece of your sheep, because God, your God, has chosen only them and their children out of all your tribes to be present and serve always in the name of God, your God.
6-8 If a Levite moves from any town in Israel—and he is quite free to move wherever he desires—and comes to the place God designates for worship, he may serve there in the name of God along with all his brother Levites who are present and serving in the Presence of God. And he will get an equal share to eat, even though he has money from the sale of his parents’ possessions.
9-12 When you enter the land that God, your God, is giving you, don’t take on the abominable ways of life of the nations there. Don’t you dare sacrifice your son or daughter in the fire. Don’t practice divination, sorcery, fortunetelling, witchery, casting spells, holding séances, or channeling with the dead. People who do these things are an abomination to God. It’s because of just such abominable practices that God, your God, is driving these nations out before you.
13-14 Be completely loyal to God, your God. These nations that you’re about to run out of the country consort with sorcerers and witches. But not you. God, your God, forbids it.
15-16 God, your God, is going to raise up a prophet for you. God will raise him up from among your kinsmen, a prophet like me. Listen obediently to him. This is what you asked God, your God, for at Horeb on the day you were all gathered at the mountain and said, “We can’t hear any more from God, our God; we can’t stand seeing any more fire. We’ll die!”
17-19 And God said to me, “They’re right; they’ve spoken the truth. I’ll raise up for them a prophet like you from their kinsmen. I’ll tell him what to say and he will pass on to them everything I command him. And anyone who won’t listen to my words spoken by him, I will personally hold responsible.
20 “But any prophet who fakes it, who claims to speak in my name something I haven’t commanded him to say, or speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet must die.”
21-22 You may be wondering among yourselves, “How can we tell the difference, whether it was God who spoke or not?” Here’s how: If what the prophet spoke in God’s name doesn’t happen, then obviously God wasn’t behind it; the prophet made it up. Forget about him.
Psalm 38 The Message (MSG)
A David Psalm
38 1-2 Take a deep breath, God; calm down—
3-4 I’ve lost twenty pounds in two months
5-8 The cuts in my flesh stink and grow maggots
9-16 Lord, my longings are sitting in plain sight,
17-20 I’m on the edge of losing it—
21-22 Don’t dump me, God;
Galatians 2 The Message (MSG)
What Is Central?
2 1-5 Fourteen years after that first visit, Barnabas and I went up to Jerusalem and took Titus with us. I went to clarify with them what had been revealed to me. At that time I placed before them exactly what I was preaching to the non-Jews. I did this in private with the leaders, those held in esteem by the church, so that our concern would not become a controversial public issue, marred by ethnic tensions, exposing my years of work to denigration and endangering my present ministry. Significantly, Titus, non-Jewish though he was, was not required to be circumcised. While we were in conference we were infiltrated by spies pretending to be Christians, who slipped in to find out just how free true Christians are. Their ulterior motive was to reduce us to their brand of servitude. We didn’t give them the time of day. We were determined to preserve the truth of the Message for you.
6-10 As for those who were considered important in the church, their reputation doesn’t concern me. God isn’t impressed with mere appearances, and neither am I. And of course these leaders were able to add nothing to the message I had been preaching. It was soon evident that God had entrusted me with the same message to the non-Jews as Peter had been preaching to the Jews. Recognizing that my calling had been given by God, James, Peter, and John—the pillars of the church—shook hands with me and Barnabas, assigning us to a ministry to the non-Jews, while they continued to be responsible for reaching out to the Jews. The only additional thing they asked was that we remember the poor, and I was already eager to do that.
11-13 Later, when Peter came to Antioch, I had a face-to-face confrontation with him because he was clearly out of line. Here’s the situation. Earlier, before certain persons had come from James, Peter regularly ate with the non-Jews. But when that conservative group came from Jerusalem, he cautiously pulled back and put as much distance as he could manage between himself and his non-Jewish friends. That’s how fearful he was of the conservative Jewish clique that’s been pushing the old system of circumcision. Unfortunately, the rest of the Jews in the Antioch church joined in that hypocrisy so that even Barnabas was swept along in the charade.
14 But when I saw that they were not maintaining a steady, straight course according to the Message, I spoke up to Peter in front of them all: “If you, a Jew, live like a non-Jew when you’re not being observed by the watchdogs from Jerusalem, what right do you have to require non-Jews to conform to Jewish customs just to make a favorable impression on your old Jerusalem cronies?”
15-16 We Jews know that we have no advantage of birth over “non-Jewish sinners.” We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ. How do we know? We tried it—and we had the best system of rules the world has ever seen! Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement, we believed in Jesus as the Messiah so that we might be set right before God by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good.
17-18 Have some of you noticed that we are not yet perfect? (No great surprise, right?) And are you ready to make the accusation that since people like me, who go through Christ in order to get things right with God, aren’t perfectly virtuous, Christ must therefore be an accessory to sin? The accusation is frivolous. If I was “trying to be good,” I would be rebuilding the same old barn that I tore down. I would be acting as a charlatan.
19-21 What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.
Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.